Design, Monitoring and Evaluation for Peacebuilding

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A Combination of M&E approaches in monitoring of peace-building projects

Adopted to supplement it not to suppress it:  A Combination of Outcome Mapping and Logical framework approaches in Monitoring and Evaluation of peacebuilding projects.

In Rwanda as post genocide country, government, private sector, civil society organizations and international NGOs have initiated various peacebuilding related initiatives to reconstruct and maintain social fabric: security, peace, trust, tolerance and social cohesions as well as development.   In spite of an alarming situation after genocide against Tutsi in 1994, which destroyed the social fabric, 20 years’ experience indicates a tremendous achievement in normalizing and reestablishing good relationships within the Rwandan population. Many actors in peacebuilding, healing, and reconciliation have registered an important contribution in restoration of social cohesion among Rwandans, yet, it is difficult to claim to be the owner of this credit –- because one of the long-standing challenges to successful peacebuilding initiatives, has been the difficulty of measuring results and generating evidence to identify what types of interventions worked and these which didn’t work.

 In many contexts, peacebuilding interventions seek transformation that is more abstract than concrete, and it may take a long time to show clear peace-relevant results. These challenges highlight the need of robust and regular Monitoring and Evaluation. The implementing partner organizations of peacebuilding projects have been clearly requested by donors /funders   to regularly track progress and impact of these initiatives as means of sharing the credit and accountability.  

 In Rwanda, M&E professionals and researchers, who use to measure the progress, changes, and impact of these initiatives, face this complexity and some of us still thinking that “impact of peacebuilding projects is unmeasurable”.  We are always asking ourselves the following question: “How to measure trust, tolerance, influence, perception, awareness, gender equality, conflict transformation?” This question goes with no clear answer. Even these, who tried to measure these aspects, end up by having non-rigorous measures.  Some of us believe that this part of peacebuilding work can be measured as we measure the number of kilometers of road constructed, while others are skeptical about this measuring practice. This debate is endless about the appropriate approach to monitor and evaluate the impact of peace-related initiatives. Because of this complex measurement, we leave this part unmeasurable, and the full impact of peace actors in community is minimized.

 Even if M&E field is a new concept in Rwanda, some International and local NGOs as well as Government have shown an interest in this field. Some peace actors who receive funding from International development organizations are required to use the Logical Framework, as an approach of monitoring and evaluation of these projects.  This tool is being utilized to conceptualize the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of these initiatives.

As elsewhere, the majority of M&E professionals in Rwanda, we viewed the Logical framework as the corner stone of projects M&E design- this is true because this tool has been  adopted and used by many development organizations since its development in 1990s and even today, M&E practitioners, we are heavily lying on it.

We use it as the foundation of impact evaluation, and with this tool, we believe that impact can be attributed to a particular project/program. However, such “impact” is in most cases a product of a confluence of events for which no single actor can realistically claim full credit.

In addition to this, the peacebuilding projects are, in most cases, implemented in volatile and quickly changing context, however, regardless this problematic, many organizations routinely continue to struggle with measuring results far beyond their boundary partners based on “IF and Then formula” of Logical framework approach.

In response to the posed question of measurement of peacebuilding work  and looking into  the dynamics, complexity and non-linearity situations in peacebuilding related initiatives , some international NGOs , who recognize that social change is very complex and very dynamic, have adopted  the use of  Outcome Mapping approach  as new approach to planning, monitoring, and evaluating peacebuilding activities . Using this tool, peacebuilders put “much emphasis along the journey rather than on destination”. This tool was adopted to complement the traditional Logical framework to better monitor and evaluate the peacebuilding projects. With Outcome mapping,  which use  the progress markers to regularly track the achievement of  “Outcomes” as its black box , the  impact is owned collectively; not  the result of a causal chain beginning with ‘inputs’ and controlled by donors. The results are obtained from interactions between different actors, forces and trends rather than a single actor who wish to eat the pome.

The supporters of this new and evolving project design, monitoring and evaluation tool, argue that Outcome mapping  is well-suited to areas involving complex change processes , like peacebuilding related projects and organizations which use the participatory action research.  The outcome mapping approach enables to track the Milestones that indicate a path of change very rapidly rather than struggling in measuring project’s impact as an end result of the peace related initiatives.

Even if the Outcome mapping is a new concept, the users of this approach showcased it’s extremely advantages vis-à-vis to the traditional standard LFA.  Because each approach has its own strengths and its weaknesses, outcome mapping was adopted to supplement the logical framework rather that suppresses it.  However, debates about whether one approach is better than the other has not proved to be fruitful and this continues to dominate the minds of researchers and M&E professionals. With about four year experience of using Logical framework approach as M&E professional, and only one year experience of practicing a combination model of logical framework and outcome mapping in a peacebuilding and participatory governance programme, provided me an insightful practice of this mixed-M&E system –which allowed me to see   project beneficiaries as project boundary partners, and engaged them as part of project monitoring and evaluation process. It allowed me to receive invaluable feedback from them through regular and cyclical reflections. It helped me to exactly know where the project has a direct control, a direct influence and indirect influence through the paths of change.  

 

Outcome mapping is a methodology for planning and assessing development programming that is oriented towards change and social transformation. It is based on learning from experiences and coping with change throughout the journey up to destination rather than assuming the logic of direct causality and attribution. Regardless its complexity, in similar contexts, I can advise M&E professionals to use both the sides of coin- logical framework and Outcome mapping-to effectively design, monitor and evaluate peacebuilding related initiatives, however I put the following questions on the table: Can we continue to stick on routine use of Traditional Logical Framework? Or can we combine it with other design, M&E approaches. ? Can outcome mapping overthrow the Logical framework?  On my side, I see better to use the outcome mapping to complement the traditional logical framework approach not to suppress it. Using this approach, can reduce our struggle of measuring impact because the change is documented throughout the journey and you end up by knowing what your contribution to the social change is, rather than claiming to be the impact maker.

Celestin Nsengiyumva is M&E professional with 4 years of experience in Monitoring and Evaluation field within both International and National NGOs working in Rwanda. Celestin has a bachelor’s degree in Applied Statistics and a Master’s Degree in Development studies.